Lyudmila Alexeyeva awarded Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has awarded its annual Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to veteran Russian activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva.
“A Soviet-era dissident and one of Russia's most outspoken and respected rights advocates, 88-year-old Alekseyeva received the prestigious award on September 28 during the PACE session in Strasbourg, France,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said.
PACE President Anne Brasseur, who chaired the selection panel, said Alekseyeva had “inspired many generations of activists in Russia, but also abroad, to commit themselves to the struggle for justice.”
In her speech to PACE, Alekseyeva said she did not foresee any improvement for Russian civil society in the near future, but she said she remained "optimistic about the long-term prospects."
The prize went to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski in 2013 and to Azerbaijani human rights activist Anar Mammadli in 2014.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva’s award underscores the complex situation in which Russia’s civil society has found itself today, said Ales Bialiatski in his comments for the spring96.org website.
“Today, the situation with human rights in Russia is of great anxiety and concern, as over the past few years, the most active and well-known human rights organizations in Russia have been subjected to continuous attacks. They were included in the list of foreign agents, there were endless financial audits of their activities, as well as other checks that sharply restricted the activities of Russian human rights activists. Clearly, this has been done for a reason. This is the current government policy. Their answer to the principled position that our colleagues take in such a difficult time, when it is obvious that Russia is farther and farther away from the norms and principles of human rights. Great concerns and criticism among Russian human rights activists were caused by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as well as the emergence of dozens of political prisoners and severe restrictions on the work of the country’s civil society. In turn, human rights activists suffered an attack from the government, some of them were forced to curtail their activities, or reshape them. Some left Russia or keep working without registration. Now they are going through difficult times. And I believe that this award underscores the complex situation in which Russia’s civil society has found itself today,” said Viasna leader.
Ales Bialiatski also said that Lyudmila Alexeyeva is a longtime friend of the Belarusian human rights defenders and has always supported the country’s civil society in difficult conditions.
“Lyudmila Alexeyeva is a symbol of human rights in Russia. She has been doing her work for more than 50 years. Despite her age, her assessment of the human rights situation in Russia has always been clear and principled. In addition, she is our good friend and colleague. Lyudmila Alexeyeva has repeatedly come to Belarus and gave an accurate and objective assessment of the human rights situation in the country. She has helped us morally, when we were in difficult conditions. When I was in prison, she protested and demanded my release,” said Ales Bialiatski.